Budget about an hour per mile, bring water bottles and take care not to slip when crossing Hanakapi'ai Stream.
Serious hikers can trek the entire 11 miles in to Kalalau Beach, but our 4-mile round trip was plenty dazzling and tiring. When you return to the trailhead, you'll be ready to kick back.
ON THE BEACH AND ON THE SHELF
That's easy on Kauai, because there are quiet beaches everywhere you go.
The strand we'll remember best is the crook of Lumahai Beach by Makahoa Point. Park your car in the unpaved area on the ocean side of Kuhio Highway just west of Hanalei, where the road takes a sharp twist.
Then look for a gap between the trees, where a path leads down to the beach.
You'll see smooth yellow sand, frothy surf and jet-black volcanic rocks being pummeled by waves. When we were there, waves washing over the rocks had created a sandy wading pool.
The beach appears wild and remote, and for about an hour, we were alone. Though the quiet stretch is no secret, it was easy to pretend that it was.
We decided to stick to the shallows, partly because there was no lifeguard. Many Kauai beaches have signs warning about dangerous riptides and Lumahai is known for strong undertow and currents that make swimming here dangerous.
"Our currents are very strong," said Sabra Kauka, a Hawaiian-studies educator and cultural practitioner who grew up on Kauai. "When we were children, our elders taught us to sit and observe the ocean for at least 20 minutes before we went in."